Five Ways to Propagate Plants

Ahh Propagation, lately this seems to have been my life. I love how simple and easy it is to get more plants for free. And when you’re trying to set up a small nursery or start your own veggie garden in your backyard it’s a great way to turn a hobby into a little bit of side cash and provide food for the family. I’ll save divulging too much about my new nursery for my next post though. Today i want to talk about propagating plants, or turning one plant or the fruit of a plant into lots of plants!!

Plant Seeds

Let’s start with the original and mother natures very own propagation method. Planting seeds! Seeds can range from the size of a pinhead to the size of your head depending on what you are dealing with. They are the eggs of life grown by every fruit tree, native tree, ornamental tree, cactus, vegetable and flower on Earth. It’s how they naturally reproduce. Seeds can be collected from every piece of fruit or vegetable that you eat. You can gingerly pick them from the outside of strawberries, scoop them from the gooey centre of a tomato or passionfruit, squeeze them out of juicy oranges, delicately extract them from a cucumber or zucchini, or tear them right from the heart of your pumpkin. I could go on for hours but i’m sure you get the point. After you have extracted your seeds they will need to be cleaned and set to dry for a couple of days, some prefer shade but most like a sunny position, the kitchen windowsill is the perfect place, (best to do a little research on the seed you are dealing with). Next is the fun part, getting your hands dirty and planting your seeds, poke small holes in the soil with your finger and place two or three seeds in each hole. Water thoroughly and keep the soil damp for the next 5 – 21 days depending on what you’re trying to grow and then watch the magic.. very slowly unfold right before your eyes.

My current collection of capsicum, pumpkin and tomato seeds from dinner last night

Take cuttings

Taking cuttings from plants is a great way to get more plants, and its quicker than planting from seed. What you will need is a mother plant, a sterile pair of garden clippers or scissors, some rooting powder or gel, (depending on the plant a small glass of water), and a small pot full of healthy seed starting soil. To get started find the newest green growth on the mother plant, choose a spot just above where the new growth has started, it should still be flexible not woody, cutting here will stimulate the mother to continue growing rather than having nothing fresh to shoot from and its the perfect spot to allow new roots to grow from the cutting. Once you have chosen your new baby, cut it off at a 45 degree angle, pluck the leaves at the base of the stem leaving only the top 2-5 leaves on, dip it in the rooting hormone and depending on the plant, place it in the pot and tamp down the soil to hold it in place and water it for full saturation of the soil or place it in a glass of water on the window sill. Plants like lavender and rosemary can go straight into the soil, whereas tomato and chilli plants like to sit in a glass of water for a few days. New roots should start to grow within the next 10 days for smaller fast growing plants and after a few months you should be able to propagate your propagations. (note, this should be done in the early morning or late afternoon when it isn’t so hot)

Rosemary cuttings
Tomato cuttings and Spring onions

Remove and replant pups

This one is more for ornamental garden plants that after time spread out over the area they are growing in, they send their roots wide not deep and then sprout another plant. a secondary feature some plants have developed to continue on their line. These are some of the easiest plants too propagate because they have already grown root systems to support being cut from the mother plant and replanted. Using a sharp, clean pair of clippers, cut on a 45 degree angle to remove the pup. You can dip the cut area into powdered charcoal to help prevent rot, but with most of these plants it’s not 100% necessary. Then replant it straight in the desired position, you are likely to see some dieback from transplant shock but just remove dead leaves as they wilt to allow the plant to focus its energy on roots and new growth rather than struggling to keep the old ones alive.

Just a few of the pups i pulled from my dads garden.

Air Layering

Air layering is so cool! I absolutely love this method, this is how you propagate trees! What you will need is; A sharp, sterile knife, a bucket, some soil, peat moss, water, some aluminium foil and some plastic glad wrap. Start by choosing the branch that you wish to propagate, a 1-2 year old one works best. Next take your knife and about halfway down the branch gently peel off the top layer of bark about 1 inch long the whole way around the branch. In your bucket mix your soil, peat moss and water together to make some delicious root growing mud. Then get a piece of foil about a 30cm (1 foot) long and load it with your mud mixture, spread it out and then wrap it around the cut on the branch, wrap i final layer of glad wrap around this to seal it tight and hold in the moisture. Leave it on the tree for about 3 months then cut the branch off below your mud wrap, remove the foil and plant your brand new tree!! This method tricks the tree into thinking its branch has fallen to the ground, so the tree starts pumping energy to the area of the cut telling it to grow roots, all while keeping the branch and the rest of the tree alive.

Ground Layering

And finally, ground layering. This method is best used for vines and bushes, and its super simple, all you need is a pot full of soil and some form of weight. Find a new growth nodule on your vine, bend the vine over so that the desired node is in the centre of your pot (you may need a small table or something higher than the ground to sit your pot on). Cover the node with soil and weigh it down with a small rock, water regularly and in a few weeks you should be able to cut off the section vine that is attached to the mother plant and you’ll have yourself a new vine.

Propagation master Chris Norris working his magic on the rare Jade flower vine

So there you have it folks, one of my very favourite pass times in a nutshell of knowledge for you. Propagation is a beautiful way to commune with nature, get your hands dirty and test your patience. I certainly do not have a 100% success rate but failures are just lessons in disguise. Thank you all for reading and if you decide to try any of these i would love to hear how you go with. Enjoy your free plants and for more information on plants and permaculture check out my other posts by clicking one of the links below 🙂

“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.”

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